Like most other people in the industry, I’m here because I love books! I love words and how they can be combined to reveal a new way of knowing the world. For a while, my dream was to become a writer, but over time, I grew less interested in telling my stories and more interested in helping others tell theirs. I found Beacon through the amazing We Need Diverse Books internship grant and was immediately drawn to its progressive catalog and justice-oriented mission.
I was always interested in being somewhere in the world of books. Before college, I wanted to be a full-time writer, and at some point, in those four years, I realized I needed more social interaction in my day than there would be in a typical freelance day. Publishing seemed like the most adjacent career that was less isolated, and it’s turned out to be the case!
There is a picture of me as a child frowning over my book at whoever is behind the camera interrupting my read, and I think it is the perfect depiction of my relationship with books. I’ve always loved books, and nothing else made sense to me. If I couldn’t share stories with people, what else could I do?
When I was a kid, my favorite store was Barnes & Noble. I’ve always been a reader, and quite frankly, I’ve only ever really felt qualified to work with books. I started out with the starry-eyed vision of publishing everyone has: editing. I learned in graduate school that being an editor probably wasn’t for me and, feeling a little hopeless toward the end of my graduate career, took a marketing and sales class. It changed the game for me.
The timing of this Q&A is a nice bookend, as I joined Beacon last June! I saw this specific job retweeted by either POC in Publishing or Latinx in Publishing. I’ve been in publishing/the world of books in some way ever since I graduated college back in the aughts. After moving around a bit, I really found a sweet spot in working on progressive books, and publicity and marketing really suit my preference of crafting the messaging and helping to put out projects into the world that the author has spent so much time working on.
My degree is actually in film, but I realized only afterward that it wasn’t what I wanted for myself, so I did what any sensible person would do—I street performed for a little while in Baltimore, playing bucket drums. Wanting something more stable, I luckily got hired on as a manager at a Books-A-Million. The rest is history, I guess. I just fell in love with books, the industry, and the people in it. My first taste of publishing was during an internship at MIT Press where I got to work in a few different departments. That affirmed publishing as the right place for me.
It took me a long while to figure out that there were entire careers behind every page of the books I was reading. It might sound odd, but it wasn’t until reading about Anastasia Steele working in a publishing house from “Fifty Shades of Gray” that I put it together (pretty sure that wasn’t the goal of the book, haha). After that, I spent more and more time looking not only at what I was reading, but also which publisher or imprint was producing it.
Like many people in publishing, I’ve just always loved reading and have always been interested in the entire book publishing process. I had my first internship in publishing when I studied abroad in college. That solidified my interest, and publishing became what I actively wanted to pursue. While that internship was in children’s editorial, I also worked as a publicity and editorial intern at PublicAffairs and was able to learn a lot more about the different sides of publishing, specifically in serious nonfiction. This led me to Beacon when I noticed an opening for an editorial assistant position last fall and applied.
I’ve always loved finding that perfect seed at the heart of a story, and thanks to my mom’s early guidance (thanks, Mom!), I’ve had my sights set on a career in publishing for a long time. I spent a few summers working as an intern at a literary agency where my main job was to dig through slush piles full of unsolicited manuscripts, trying to discover the Next Big Thing. It was a great way to practice spotting not just the obviously great stuff, but the stuff that could be great with a little more shaping. That’s where I really learned how to argue for a book’s potential.
Like many people who work at Beacon, I have always loved books and reading, and I studied English as my major in college. Though my mother worked as an editor for a number of years, I did not consider a job in publishing for myself until later in school. I was worried that a lack of publishing-specific internships might make it more difficult to get a job in this industry but figured it was worth a shot! I found the listing for my position at Beacon during one of many frantic late-night job searches as a second-semester senior.
With an undergraduate degree in design and six years of teaching in a centre for speech and drama, I needed something that would amalgamate my interest in design and literature. After some research, I realised the design and production department of the publishing industry is the place for me.
I’ve always loved reading, but I came to realize that the publishing industry’s lack of diversity was shaping the types of books that were picked up and being pushed on readers including myself. As a queer Black disabled woman who only rarely saw myself represented well or represented at all in my favorite medium, I got fed up and decided that I guess I gotta be part of that diversity myself.
When I first started college, I saw myself working in magazine publishing or doing political writing. But the more I talked to people in my classes about why they were passionate about book publishing, the more drawn to it I became. I always knew I wanted to work somewhere at the intersection between art and public policy, and Beacon felt like exactly that place. The mission statement and the books they have published line up perfectly with so many of the issues I’m passionate about.
It feels like a cliché, but I’ve always been interested in books and bookmaking. My dad ran a print shop in Cambridge for many years, so I had what felt like limitless access to paper in a rainbow of colors, giant staplers, laminators, and plastic binding. I made my first book when I was five or six and called it “Beautiful Birds,” a collection of bird illustrations for my grandma. When I started thinking about college ten years later, it was pretty much a toss-up whether I’d study writing or art. Designing books is a career where I get to be excited about both, so I set my heart on it early.
As most people in publishing will say, I’ve always really, really, loved reading. English was the only subject throughout school that I truly cared about, and the idea of getting to work with books all the time always seemed like an absolute dream to me.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that I, like much of the staff at Beacon, have always been a book nerd. My mom loves to embarrass me by recalling all the times she would check on me during childhood playdates, only to find me steadfastly ignoring my friends in favor of getting in one more chapter. It wasn’t until I landed a job at a local indie bookstore when I was seventeen that I became interested in the work that goes into transforming a person’s idea into a book on a shelf (shout-out to An Unlikely Story for continuing to indulge my coffee and book addictions after all these years!).
I feel like so many people I’ve spoken to who work in publishing have always known they wanted to be a part of this industry, but that’s definitely not the case for me! When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to pursue some sort of health science career, but then I had the classic “I don’t know what I want to do with my life” freak-out just before it was time to apply to schools. My mom encouraged me to think about the subjects I truly enjoyed studying, and those were always my English and Latin classes. I ended up connecting with a family friend who works in publishing, and she was the person who showed me how much you really can do with an English/Liberal Arts degree!
I want to say my passion for book publishing is because I have always loved to read, but that is just not true. When I was growing up, my family pretty much exclusively spoke Spanish, so when I started first grade and was asked to learn to read in English—a language that already felt out of place on my tongue—it was a BIG no from me. I hated it. It took me longer than the other kids to read a Magic Tree House book, and I was embarrassed, which put me off reading for pleasure for years. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I had an amazing English teacher—Shout-out to Emily! I went to a hippy-dippy middle school where we called our teachers by their first name—that I finally enjoyed reading.
I studied poetry in college and worked a handful of odd publishing jobs around New York. Through both good and bad experiences in that world, I developed a genuine passion for promoting work by both new and underrepresented writers. I was always That Person telling my friends, “You need to read this new book! You need to read this new poem!” Yelling about new books is fun, you know? It’s a celebration, which, for me, always felt like a natural extension of being a super nerdy reader. So when I applied to graduate schools and Emerson’s publishing program offered me a funded spot, I leapt at the chance to explore publishing outside of New York. After that, my path became a little circuitous.
While reading The Condemnation of Little B by Elaine Brown for a class, I saw that Beacon had published it and remembered a friend telling me about the organization and her great experience interning at Beacon. The Condemnation of Little B is one of the best and one of the most unorthodox books I have ever read. It combines memoir, investigative journalism, and history into a cohesive and rousing book, detailing the societal and historical events leading up to the arrest and incarceration of Michael Lewis. I knew that any publisher willing to publish such an unusual book with such pointed critiques of typically deified historical figures was exactly the type of publisher I wanted to work for.